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Challenges of Business Operations during Covid19 | Ian Scouler

I think the company has shown tremendous flexibility. Plastic was already part of our product portfolio, having come from a strategic decision made before Covid-19, partly made on growing the business and also on risk spread, as in not having all our business in one business sector. This risk spread strategy is certainly benefiting us now today.

Apart from having a plastic range in our portfolio when this started, we have further adopted new plastic product lines to accommodate the stress felt on the supply chain and ensure we maintained supply with product fit for the applications required. Examples of this would be Clear Polystyrene - High Impact Sheet and Clear PVC sheet, which are now and will fulfill current and future sales positions, that otherwise we would have missed due to supply shortfall.
Another example and one I really like, is the circular transaction between ourselves and our own customers for Face Shields: It is a simple story that involves only Irish companies working together as a team and finding commercial and real solutions.

I saw a picture on the internet when I was in isolation at home, I sent the picture to the MD of one of our customers. This was Friday at 6:45am, at 7:10am he had phoned me back and at 4:20pm, he had a full design concept made. The following Monday he placed an order to us to take out all our 220 Micron. He then was selling the shields that he designed, we were also buying the shields from him and this shield was made from our material sold to him, so a full circle.

At this point, the shield produced by the converter in Ireland used 220 PVC Micron for the front face element, with another white product for the headband, all products sold by us. 

This led on to two more advances in the area of shields: 

We researched and imported a wider range of shields and now actively sell shields across this range including the Irish produced shield.

For the local shield production, the PVC supply chain was under stress and was not sustainable on the 220 Micron PVC product. We further sourced 300 and 500 Micron APET from another Irish producer to ensure supply and shield production was continued, this part alone will yield 100 000 Euro plus in sales. Currently we are moving to buying the master rolls nearly one tonne in weight and converting locally by another Irish company via a contact working in the Industrial Chain Market. This contact will utilise his conversion machine normally used for cables - again flexibility at its best and all Irish.

I like the concept of something so small leading to a real turn over contribution, where all companies involved are Irish, the fact that our company reached out to a wider business community in our country and showing the flexibility to adapt our business using natural synergy product groups in this case plastic related. Then to produce and sell a product previously never sold by us. I like the concept of selling the raw material and buying the finished product back and selling the finished product again, all Irish based businesses working together. 

The business has many stress points, when it comes to such a traumatic event: 

  • Finance: Bank submissions, working capital funding, we are in the process of an MBO, we have revenue rules, staff payroll processing, break even calculations, supplier payments and customer credit risk etc.
  • Purchasing: Management of supply channels both fast moving lines plastic where supply chain is stressed and freight delivery is stressed.
  • Sales: The teams as you know were split and all teams continued working hard, focusing on essential products and new market target lists which is always hard as it involves ground work to new contact. One major benefit is our staff have now been up skilled in plastics and post this crisis we will have a better skilled plastic team with a much wider contact base.
  • Pick and Pack: At times the flow of business can catch the short staff team in the warehouse out and because we run a 14 day cycle, it can be exhausting and I recognise this. 
All staff in my opinion have shown commitment and adaption and that word flexibility again including the digital marketing team, picking up ideas for social media “working at home tips”, new product, contact lists, competitive reviews, lead generation, working on projects so we keep moving forward.

As David said, the truth is that a huge number of the rest of us employees see ourselves as being part of a much bigger, at times dysfunctional, family.

Stay safe, 
Ian Scouler.
Managing Director

Check how our Finance Director, David O'Keeffe is dealing with the coronavirus challenges.